Ken Carpenter can let out a sigh of relief, as a dream he never thought would last enters its 20th year of existence.

Casa Xalteva, a Spanish school and cultural center Carpenter co-founded in Granada, Nicaragua, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and is still going strong, said Carpenter, who works as the associate director in the Global Education Office.

The idea of Casa Xalteva arose from his and Co-Founder Gregory Calvert’s desire to create an outlet to educate students from developed countries in the culture and life of their third-world counterparts, Carpenter said.

“We came up with this idea that if we could start a Spanish language school for foreigners they would come down and pay money to take intensive Spanish courses and then that money we could use for community projects,” he said.

The community aspect of Casa Xalteva took a couple of forms before Carpenter and Calvert ended up settling on the children’s program they have now, Carpenter said.

We at one point were supporting a youth boxing program. Then there was a community center that we were supporting at one point,” he said.

Eventually, the Casa Xalteva team realized the path to real change in the community was through the children, said Carpenter.

“Nicaragua is a really, really poor country,” Carpenter said. “There were so many homeless kids, kids begging on the street, kids hanging out and sniffing glue, that it was obvious that the kids were the main target. If you wanted to change anything there, you had to start working with the kids.”

The school now uses money accrued through Spanish course fees to fund the children’s program. He said Casa Xalteva’s children’s program financially supports around 20 local children all the way through university education.

Casa Xalteva is not a UNM program, but many times students will hear about the school and decide to travel there, either to learn Spanish or to volunteer with the school, Carpenter said.

“The UNM dental hygiene program has taken students down in the summertime,” he said. “They’ve gone down and they do free dental clinics for kids with their dental students. We have also had other universities from the U.S., Canada, a few from Europe and a lot of high school groups that go down.”

Casa Xalteva usually has one or two interns working on site, Carpenter said. He said many times, they are UNM students.

Annette Mares-Duran, a Global Education Office study abroad adviser, said she worked as an intern at Casa Xalteva in 2010.

Mares-Duran said the school is an amazing place, she had a wonderful experience there and she is proud to have dedicated time to the mission of the program.

“Casa Xalteva holds a special place in my heart,” she said. “The staff, kids and volunteers at Casa Xalteva became not only my friends, but my family. It is amazing to see the connection and relationships that the international students and the children create.”

For more information about Casa Xalteva, visit For details on UNM programs that visit Casa Xalteva, contact Matias Fontenla at